Cercény & Lšténi
27 November 1999

Prague was a very very frustrating, unpleasant place and we both got really down while we were there. It was the first time I started to feel like maybe we should just go home. We had planned to have some downtime there, and we DID relax, take it easy and have short days -- but it turned out to be a place we really didn't want to be. We kept discussing just how long we should stay and if we should cut our stay short. In the end cutting it short would've meant travelling on a Sunday, which is something we try to avoid when going to a new place (lots of things closed). Nevertheless, we did stay a week even while not really liking the city. It was comfortable in an odd way and certainly very cheap. We got some rest time and we even slept in almost every day.

We had hoped to see another part of the country, but most of all we really wanted to get out to a small town, to see more of Bohemia and something more real than the Disneyland sidewalks of Prague. We had read a bit about a town that we thought we might go to -- a tiny, well preserved medieval town called Czesky Krumlov, down in the south of the country -- but as soon as we arrived we heard the Aussies talking about CHESKY DUDE! It was, they said, the hottest party spot in Europe, even more 'tourist friendly' than Prague! Everyone was talking about Chesky this and Chesky that! These fools didn't even realize that the first part of the name of the town only ment that it was on the Czech side of the border -- there must be 200 villages in the Czech Republic called Czesky something. We decided to take a pass on it. We like to, at a very minimum, visit a large city and a small village in each country, but we didn't have any idea of where to go and we were pretty frustrated and ready to just GET OUT.

Then one evening while I was typing a Travelogue on the computer, Cheryln was next to me reading one of these silly English language, 'What's happening in town' magazines that are always lying around and she stumbled across an article about a guy studying Celtic religious sites in Bohemia. He had cataloged numerous standing stones (and several stone circles!) in the country and had discovered something interesting. Bohemia is a giant bowl, a circular plateau surrounded by mountains on all sides (this guy even speculated that it was a meteorite crater!) and he found that these stones placed around the region all were directed towards a central point, and that this point, in the town of Lštény, was a major Celtic religious site which now had a small Church on it.

We decided it would be really cool to visit some of the standing stones, but since none were really accessible and few were even listed in the magazine, we thought we might try Lšténi.

So one afternoon we went to a tourist information center and asked the woman there about this village. At first she looked at the name and said no, she had never heard of it. But then she started exploring, first on paper maps and later on the magnificent mapping program she had on the computer. It took quite a bit of exploring, but slowly over 10 or 15 minutes her pessimisim turned to excitement and with her dilligent work (and me climbing behind the desk to point at things on the computer screen) we finally found several extremely tiny towns with that name. She tried to examine the best option, far in the south -- but eventually we started looking at the one that was just south of Praha. Just 2km outside of the town of Cercény (Chercheni) We decided that was certainly it, so we asked her how we could take the train there.

Her excitement turned to frustration and she looked at us and said, oh no, that wasn't possible. But we encouraged her to check in the fantastic railroad database. She found only a couple of trains and they all took about 6 or 7 hours. After a while we realized that was the southern town. When we looked at the schedule for the closer town, there were dozens of trains to Cercény and even a few from Cercény to Lšténi!! We were excited, but she was even more excited, amost jumping up and down. I think it was the highlight of her week! It was a great experience!

So Saturday morning we got up early and caught the train to Cercény -- took about an hour. There was, as usual, a decent town map posted at the station. It was a very small town, but it was clear that we needed to walk essentially along the river to get to Lšténi. Once we walked out of the station it became clear that it would not be a problem -- as with most of Europe, there were explicit walking trail signs with color coded trails, town names and distances. The yellow trail would take us 1.8km to Lšténi. Once that was clear we walked on into the center of the town, (that is to say we crossed the street!) where we found a small outdoor market and a grocery store. The grocery store was in an old communist building and was probably barely changed from the communist days except for all the US, German and British products on the shelves. However the big stand-up Pepsi advertisment with Jar Jar Binks taking up much of the entry way was seemed VERY out of place!!! We bought bananas, yogurt, apples, chips, milk, chocolate, bread, cheese and water -- kind of our standard fare. The yogurt & bananas were especially good!

We phoned my cousin Elaine to make some plans for Italy and then set out on our walk. It was very nice to be out in the country and away from Praha! We walked down the country road and soon found Lsteni. It took us about 4 minutes to walk completely across it and out of it. We didn't see any church or graveyard or anything that fit the description of the location of the pagan site we were looking for. The village was along the river on the left and went up a small hill about 2 blocks on the right. We walked across a rickety noisy bridge and explored the town that went up the hill on the other side. We thought we might find the train station there were we could catch our train back to Praha so we wouldn't have to double back -- retracing steps is one of those things we try to avoid. We didn't find it. (We later discovered that we were only 1 block downhill from it when we turned around!)

We stopped underneath the Lšténi sign and ate some lunch and tried to decide weather to explore the town or walk further. There was a steep forested hill just beyond town, and we had seen a church on top of it when we were farther away, so we decided it would be fun to walk up there. As we walked up the hill in the forest (on the blue trail/road now!) we started to wonder if this might actually be the place we were looking for. We found the church in a large clearing and sat and ate chocolate out front while admiring the view of the Bohemian basin. We decided this was probably the site, one of the Pagan power centers. We snuck through the gate and explored the graveyard -- tightly packed graves, but all from within the last 50 years. After that we decided to explore the hilltop a bit. After wandering for some time, passing a few houses, a bit of agriculture, but mostly forest and meadows we stopped for lunch. The only dry place to sit was in the middle of the road on the pavement, but since we saw no traffic at all this wasn't a problem.

After lunch we came across a sign that seemed to indicate that the yellow trail/road returned to Cercény by a different route. We were intriuged and decided to follow this -- especially since we had just seen a SUV full of hunters in camo fatiuges carrying big rifles. They all unloaded out of the car and went back the way we came from. We decided we didn't want to go that way! This trail was more like a trail and not a road and it went deep into the forest, but remained quite well marked. The walk was very very nice, but dark clouds were gathering and we were starting to be eager to get back to Cerceny -- and luckily, quite suddenly, the trail came out of the woods (seemingly in someones back yard!) and headed down a small alleyway towards the main road we had walked along before. The trail was STILL well marked! Now instead of on trees and rocks and signposts, the yellow markings were on people's garages and lampopsts! We went back to Lsteni and looked around town, found the train station, and sat there and ate a bit more. Then we walked back to Cercény and got back to town just in time to catch a train back to Praha. It was a wonderful day -- a couple of wonderful towns and a nice way to see the area! It made us feel very good!

© Copyright Mark Canizaro 2000

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